Based on Philip K. Dick’s Hugo Award-winning novel, The Man In the High Castle hails from The X-Files alum Frank Spotnitz and Scott Free. Written by Spotnitz and to be directed by David Semel (Legends), the project set in 1962 explores an alternative reality in which Nazi Germany and Japan won World War II and occupy the United States, with the East Coast controlled by the Nazis and the West Coast owned by Japan, and a chunk of the Midwest still up for grabs. Fascism rules and the few surviving Jews hide under assumed names. But an aging Hitler has one foot in the grave, and the Japanese are preparing for an imminent Nazi stab in the back. The U.S. Resistance is scattered, scared, or crushed. The project originally was set up as a four-hour miniseries at Syfy last year. “The Man In High Castle is one of Dick’s most imaginative and captivating works and certainly one of my favorites,” Scott Free’s Ridley Scott said at the time. Scott, of course, directed the 1982 Blade Runner, one of several feature adaptations of Dick’s books, along with two versions of Total Recall (1990 and 2012), …
Michael Landes is set as one of the leads in ABC‘s straight-to-series Members Only (formerly The Club), an upstairs/downstairs drama set at a private country club from CBS TV Studios and ABC Studios. Landes, repped by UTA and attorney Harris Hartman, will play Malcolm, an athletic, charming, recently-widowed pediatrician and father of two who has mixed feelings about the Club. He and Leslie (Betsy Brandt) become fast friends. Coincidentally, Landes appeared in BBC’s recent remake of classic Upstairs Downstairs. He also starred opposite Anne Heche in the NBC comedy series Save Me.
SPOILER ALERT: This story contains references to story elements and events in Season 3 of Game of Thrones
Michelle Fairley is coming back from the dead. No, this is not a surprise plot twist on HBO’s blockbuster Game of Thrones, where Fairley’s Catelyn Stark faced a spectacular demise. The Northern Irish actress is joining ABC’s drama Resurrection for a season-long story arc. She will play Margaret Langston, the formidable matriarch of the Langston clan, mother of Henry and Fred (Kurtwood Smith, Matt Craven). Dead for more than three decades, she will reappear in Arcadia as one of the returned.
EXCLUSIVE: Community‘s Charley Koontz has landed his first series regular gig, a co-starring role opposite Patricia Arquette in CBS’ upcoming CSI spinoff, CSI: Cyber. Inspired by the work of real-life CyberPsychologist Mary Aiken, CSI: Cyber centers on Special Agent Avery Ryan (Arquette) who heads the Cyber Crime Division of the FBI, a unit at the forefront of solving illegal activities that start in the mind, live online, and play out in the real world. The project originated as planted spinoff episodes on CSI last season, which only featured Arquette. The rest of the series’ cast is currently being assembled, with Koontz as the first actor locked in. Koontz plays Agent Daniel Grummitz with the Cyber Crime Division — a social introvert and a tech genius with a quick wit and self-deprecating honesty. Workaholic by day and night, Grumitz rarely, if ever, goes home. Indeed, he spends countless hours cracking cyber cases while on the clock. Off the clock, he practices penetration tests on Conficker clones. While Koontz has an occasional drama credit, including playing a rape/murder suspect in an episode of NBC’s Awake, the young actor is known mostly for his comedic chops, as showcased in his recurring role as (Fat) Neil on Community. Like most CBS procedurals, CSI: Cyber, created by Carol Mendelsohn, Anthony Zuiker and Ann Donahue, is expected to feature lighter moments, with Koontz likely to provide some of them. …
After True Detective, toplined by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, the casting bar for HBO‘s new drama series is pretty high. Enter the pay cable network’s pilot Westworld, which has locked in Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins and Evan Rachel Wood for lead roles. The project, inspired by Michael Crichton’s 1973 sci-fi movie set at an amusement park, hails from from J.J. Abrams‘ Bad Robot, Person Of Interest creator Jonathan Nolan, writer Lisa Joy Nolan, producer Jerry Weintraub and Warner Bros TV. It landed at HBO a year ago with one of the biggest commitments ever for the premium network, a pilot production commitment, and now has been officially greenlighted to pilot with Hopkins and Wood on board. Described as a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin, the series will keep the setting of the movie, which starred Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin and James Brolin and introduced new digital visual techniques.
Susan Heyward Lands Female Lead In Sony Playstation Series ‘Powers’, Max Fowler & Adam Godley Also Cast
EXCLUSIVE: Coming off a recurring role on the Fox drama The Following, Susan Heyward has been tapped as the female lead in Powers, the Sony Playstation Network series based on the graphic novel by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming. Also cast in the direct-to-series project, whose first two episodes will be directed by David Slade from scripts by Charlie Huston, are Max Fowler (The Killing) and Adam Godley (Breaking Bad, Suits).
Combining the genres of superhero fantasy, crime noir and police procedural, Powers, produced by Sony Pictures TV, is set in a world full of people with superhuman abilities and where all of those powers are just another catalyst for mayhem and murder. It follows the lives of two homicide detectives, Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim (Heyward), who are assigned to protect humans like us and investigate cases involving people with superhuman abilities, referred to as Powers who glide through the sky on lightning bolts and fire and who clash above cities in epic battle, oblivious to the mortals below. Pilgrim is described as equal parts beauty and sarcasm, a wunderkind detective with edgy style.
EXCLUSIVE: Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment is getting in business with Spike TV, both on the scripted and unscripted sides. The cable network, which has been ramping up scripted development, has inked a premium deal for an hourlong political thriller drama project. It will be written by Cyrus Voris and Ethan Reiff (TNT’s Legends) based on an idea by Kaplan.
Additionally, the network has entered a 3-for-1 agreement with Kapital on the reality side. Under the pact, Kaplan will develop three unscripted projects, one of which is guaranteed to go to pilot. This marks Kapital’s first formal foray into reality programming.
EXCLUSIVE: Underscoring the studios’ need for senior-level writer-producers, Sony Pictures TV has inked a two-year overall deal with drama writer Mike Ostrowski. This marks the first overall deal for Ostrowski, who will join Sony’s flagship broadcast drama series The Blacklist as a co-executive producer for the upcoming second season.
Ostrowski’s series credits include CSI: Miami, Jericho, Private Practice, Human Target and Being Human. He is with WME.
EXCLUSIVE: Cuba Gooding Jr has closed a deal with 20th Century Fox TV to develop a single-camera half-hour comedy set in an old-school boxing gym. Gooding will co-create and executive produce the project with Jason Winer‘s Small Dog Picture Company. The Oscar-winning actor is not attached to star at this point, we’re told, and there’s no writer yet. Gooding and Small Dog are meeting with potential showrunners before taking the project — which is not being called a sitcom — out to networks.
Based on Gooding’s love of boxing, the series is set in a gym in a newly gentrified neighborhood where hard-core boxers, weekend warriors and soccer moms gather to practice.
Brandon P. Bell, Tiffany Lonsdale and Jacqueline Byers will co-star opposite Tricia Helfer and Brian Van Holt in Syfy‘s six-hour event series Ascension. Set aboard the starship Ascension, it centers on hundreds of men, women and children sent on a covert, century-long mission to populate a new world. But as they approach the point of no return 50 years into the journey, the murder of a young woman causes the ship’s population to question the true nature of their mission.
Starz has greenlighted The Girlfriend Experience, a 13-part anthology series inspired by Steven Soderbergh‘s 2009 Magnolia Pictures film. Soderbergh and Philip Fleishman executive produce the half-hour series, from Transactional Pictures, which explores the relationships of the most exclusive courtesans who provide their clients with far more than just sex. These purveyors – or GFEs (Girlfriend Experience) – share intimacies more common to romantic partners or husbands and wives, becoming quasi-lovers and confidants who are richly paid for their time. “Many of these women are extremely accomplished,” said Fleishman. “They range from musicians in major orchestras to PhD candidates in the sciences and often feel empowered by the control and economic freedom their work as GFE’s affords them. The question is whether they define a new genus of contemporary relationship, or have relationships always been transactionally based in one form or another?”
Soderbergh and Fleishman executive producer along with independent filmmakers Lodge Kerrigan and Amy Seimetz, who will also write and direct on the series. “We’re in an exciting period of auteur-driven television right now,” Soderbergh said. “When Philip floated the idea of a Girlfriend Experience-inspired television show, I thought: ‘let’s make it a different woman in a different city, let’s pair two independent writer-directors, one male and one female, and let them do the whole thing.” Soderbergh said he’d known Lodge for 20 years and became a fan of Amy’s when he saw her first feature, Sun Don’t Shine, last summer. The series reunites Soderbergh with Starz CEO Chris Albrecht 11 years after the two worked together on the improv Washington DC comedy K Street.
Days after greenlighting its first comedy pilot for 2014 – Cameron Crowe’s Roadies, executive produced by J.J. Abrams – Showtime has ordered a second half-hour from well-known filmmakers: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, from feature writer Aline Brosh McKenna, with The Amazing Spider-Man helmer Marc Webb set to direct.
The comedy features musical elements, a first for Showtime. “This pilot is an exciting change of pace for us,” said Showtime President David Nevins. Co-created, written and executive produced by Brosh McKenna and writer/actress/comedian Rachel Bloom, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend stars Bloom as Rebecca, a successful, driven, and possibly crazy young woman who impulsively gives up everything – her partnership at a prestigious law firm and her upscale apartment in Manhattan – in a desperate attempt to find love and happiness in that exotic hotbed of romance and adventure: West Covina, CA.
Brosh McKenna and Bloom sold the project to Showtime last fall. The pay cable network landed it in a competitive situation with what what I heard at the time was a commitment equivalent to a put pilot. Webb is joining the project at the pilot stage as director/exec producer. CBS TV Studios is producing. This marks the second pilot at Showtime for its sibling studio, following the 2011 Andrew Garland Project. Filming is slated to begin in California in the fall. “I am so happy to be working with Rachel Bloom, who is not just a powerhouse musical comedy talent but also a fabulous writer and creator,” said Brosh McKenna. “I feel very lucky to have found her videos online.”
As we know, Amazon Studios acknowledges the existence of its pilots on its own time table. Some three months after it quietly ordered single-camera comedy Really to pilot and two months after casting it and started filming in New Orleans, the streaming service has made it official, confirming the project today. Really joins Amazon’s third season of pilots and they will be available later this year for feedback from viewers. They include The Cosmopolitans and Hand Of God, which the studio has confirmed, and Red Oaks, Hysteria, Cocked, Point Of Honor, Salem Rogers: Model Of The Year 1998, Down Dog and The Outlaws, which it hasn’t yet — along with Really.
The dramadey, written, directed by and starring Jay Chandrasekhar, part of comedy team Broken Lizard, is executive produced by Jamie Tarses and fully financed and produced by Main Street Films. Sarah Chalke, Selma Blair, Luka Jones, Travis Schuldt, Lindsay Sloane, Hayes Macarthur, Collette Wolfe and and Rob Delaney co-star in the pilot, about four hard-charging suburban Chicago couples trying to grasp on to their dwindling youth. It centers on the happily but messily married couple Jed (Chandrasekhar), and Lori (Chalke). When Jed is faced with the choice of keeping his pal’s secret or destroying his friend group, he winds up digging himself into a very deep hole. “Really …
As production on the 10-episode Better Call Saul is getting underway in Albuquerque, New Mexico, AMC has given the Breaking Bad prequel series a 13-episode second-season order, bringing the total to 23 episodes. In other Better Call Saul news, Breaking Bad creator and showrunner Vince Gilligan will direct the series premiere. He also will co-showrun along with fellow Breaking Bad alum Peter Gould, creator of the Saul Goodman character. (The conceived Better Call Saul together.) AMC also is making a scheduling change for Better Call Saul. The series, previously slated for a November launch, will now premiere Season 1 in early 2015 and Season 2 in early 2016. Here is a first-look photo from the Sony TV-produced series, which shows Gilligan and Gould from the set, with star Bob Odenkirk (Saul Goodman).
“Production on Better Call Saul is underway and we could not be more proud of nor more excited about the work to date,” said AMC president Charlie Collier.
EXCLUSIVE: Lionsgate Television and Tandem Communications have set crime drama Sex, Lies And Handwriting at ABC. The project, now in development, is intended as straight-to-series, with a fall production start in Vancouver eyed should ABC move to greenlight the pilot script.
Sex, Lies And Handwriting is the first project to come out of the joint venture Lionsgate Television and Tandem Communications, a Studiocanal company, launched last year to co-finance and distribute hourlong dramas using the straight-to-series model Tandem employed for its first drama series, Crossing Lines, as well as its miniseries including The Pillars Of The Earth and its follow-up World Without End. As expected, the partners tweaked Tandem’s existing approach, in which the Munich-based company financed its series (mostly though international pre-sales) and completed the projects before taking the finished product to the U.S.. With Sex, Lies And Handwriting, an American network, ABC, is brought in much earlier in the process for more simultaneous sales in the U.S. and Europe and Canada. Other network development partners already on board for the potential series include Bell Media (Canada), TF1 Network (France) and ProSiebenSat.1 (Germany). The series would be produced in Canada by Sea To Sky, the Canadian studio joint venture between Lionsgate and Thunderbird Films.
After a few weeks of dealmaking, Showtime has finalized a pilot production order to Roadies, a comedy written, directed and executive produced by Cameron Crowe. The project, executive produced by My So-Called Life creator Winnie Holzman and J.J. Abrams, follows the day-to-day life of a successful rock tour as seen through the eyes of the crew members who help get the show on the road. It marks a return to the rock world for former Rolling Stones reporter Crowe, who previously tackled it in his semi-autobiographical feature Almost Famous.
Crowe wrote the script and will direct the pilot, with Holzman serving as showrunner. The two executive produce with Bad Robot’s Abrams and Bryan Burk, with the company’s Kathy Lingg co-executive producing. Warner Bros. TV, where Bad Robot is based, will produce the project, described as an inside look at the reckless, romantic, funny and often poignant lives of a committed group of characters who live for music and the de facto family they’ve formed along the way. Gail Levin who was the casting director for many of Crowe’s features including Almost Famous, We Bought a Zoo, Elizabethtown, Vanilla Sky and Jerry Maguire, will be casting the pilot.
This marks Showtime’s first comedy pilot order for 2014. Last year’s crop of pilots yielded one half-hour series pickup, Happyish. The network is yet to make a decision on the future on the project, which has been in limbo following the sudden death of star Philip Seymour Hoffman in February. On the drama side, the network greenlighted pilot Billions in March.
Starz has signed a deal with another executive producer of its new drama series Power, which was just renewed for a second season. Under the overall pact, David Knoller also is joining Starz’s drama Blackbirds, from John Shiban, and will develop other projects for the pay cable network. The hire gives extra boost to Blackbirds, already on a fast track for an order after recently setting up a writers room. Adapted by Shiban from the novels by Chuck Wendig, Blackbirds centers on Miriam Black, a hitchhiker who struggles with a unique ability to see how and when you die when she touches you. Shiban and Knoller executive produce the project, which is being developed under his Knollwood Prods. banner, with Ian Williams serving as the company’s director of development. “David is one of those rare people who is able to make everything he’s involved in better,” said Carmi Zlotnik, managing director of Starz.
Knoller will return to New York in the fall to executive produce and direct episodes of Power, created by Courtney Kemp Agboh. Executive producing the second season along with Knoller and Kemp Agboh, are Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Mark Canton, whom Starz signed into a first-look deal last year, and Randall Emmett. The deal solidifies Knoller’s reunion with Starz’s top executive Chris Albrecht and Zlotnik, with whom he previously worked at HBO as producer and director on Big Love and Carnivale. He is repped by …
EXCLUSIVE: After eight years at Universal TV, drama writer-producer Liz Heldens is moving to Sony Pictures TV. In a competitive situation, with multiple studios pursuing, Sony TV has signed a two-year overall deal with Heldens that is focused on development. Heldens is a prolific creator. At Universal TV, she conceived the 2009 NBC 2009 medical drama Mercy, 2013 mystery drama Deception and co-created the network’s summer series Camp. This past season, she wrote the Texas mega-church project Salvation, which went to pilot at NBC with Ashley Judd starring. Before segueing to development, WME-repped Heldens spent three seasons on the NBC/DirecTV critically praised drama Friday Night Lights.
Leah Gibson (DirecTV’s Rogue) and Rhys Ward (The 100, The Strain) have been cast as recurrings in Carlton Cuse’s 10-episode A&E Network drama series The Returned. An adaptation of the acclaimed French series, Returned, from A+E Studios and FremantleMedia, focuses on a small town that is turned upside down when several local people who have been long presumed dead suddenly reappear, bringing with them both positive and detrimental consequences. Gibson, repped by Industry Entertainment and Play Management in Vancouver, will play Lucy, a sexy, free-spirited traveler who works as a waitress at the local bar, The Dog Star Tavern. Ward plays Adam, an expert hunter with a dark nature and a complicated family history that he’s struggling to overcome.